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May/June, 2000


Three Kings of Late Night TV

Ted Koppel of ABC's "Nightline" Bill Maher of "Politically Incorrect" and Charlie Rose on PBS, what more could one ask of the midnight hour?  That each were on longer, really.

Ted Koppel has introduced me to Vladimir Putin, Janet Reno & many other interesting people.  Through the sweet Carolina presence of Charlie Rose in NYC, I have come to know folks like Patti Smith ("Gung Ho", her latest CD) and Bill Maher has educated and entertained me with a rich circus of celebrity guests.  Three nights a week, I tune them in on my job.  What a triple treat!!!

--Bill Joyner


Politeness costs nothing and yet it means a lot to those who are below you and especially to those who are above you.

--William Feather

None goes his way alone.  All that we send into the live of others comes back into our own.

--Edwin Markham

True success is the only thing that you cannot have unless and until you have offered it to others.

--Sri Chinmoy

"You have not done enough, you have never done enough, so long as it is still possible that you have something to contribute"

--Dag Hammarskj÷ld



O Yes, Equanimity

It is a quality that is said to be present abundantly in those who live to 100 and beyond -- equanimity.  Some call it the kindness of acceptance and say it's the only solution to obsession.  As Peter Williams, a practitioner of meditative mindfulness, says, "The more you accept, the more you energize your whole being."  Equanimity is not passivity, rather it is synergy of effort created through flexible adaptivity, which comes about through deep concentration and relaxation.

Peter Williams' method of self-liberation has involved 2 & 3 month silent retreats, which he discussed in the following excerpts from a NY Times Magazine article by Jennifer Egan.  Even if we don't have two months to spare, his insights can be enormously useful in designing our own version of equanimity.


--Bill Joyner (6-1-2000)

Williams, who became serious about meditation five years ago, credits the practice with enormous changes in his life: "I now say to myself: 'What's my deepest aspiration? What is my heart's desire?' And then I try to make decisions based in that."  He veered off the Ph.D. track and now devotes more time to meditation, as well as to working with foster children.  "You go through so much on retreat," he says.  "It softens you, it tenderizes you, makes you a lot more vulnerable. It's also made me a lot more forgiving toward my family."

The power of insight meditation, proponents say, lies in its ability to make people aware of, and ultimately free from, the obsessive and restrictive thought patterns that can compromise their relationships work and lives.

In analyzing how he swerved into this state of self-criticism, Williams says: "I was identifying with it, holding on to it. But if you just sit with emotions, they disappear.  Nothing lasts.  And when they leave, there's just spacious sky. Awareness."

The contents of the mind shift radically and constantly in the course of just a few minutes.

Mindfulness means allowing these shifts to occur while remaining present - that is, without latching on to any one feeling, (Oh, no, I'm Afraid! Why am I afraid? It's bad, I have to find a way to stop being afraid...). Being "in the story" is a meditation term for getting caught in a repeating narrative about oneself that feels deeply true but in fact is just habit - the result of psychological conditioning. Of course, avoiding such thinking can be extremely difficult even while meditating - we're narrative creates, and the mind's play often leads quite naturally into storytelling.

That's the absolute crux of the practice, learning to be at ease with pleasure and pain.  Think about that: if you don't care if the next moment is comfortable or uncomfortable, you're free."


I have been more impressed with the movie Orlando than by anything else I've looked at lately.  It's an exploration of ambiguous sexuality in the person of "Lord Orlando," during some presumably mythical, ultra-English epoch, based on a work of Virginia Wolff.

Androgyny is not a lifestyle that is very readily understood or accepted.  To most people, someone is either male or female, straight or gay, and that's it!  In "Lord Orlando's" case, and with many others, among whom I am one, there is another way, a middle way, one that seems best suited and most comfortable for those who recognize within themselves a sense of equality & balance between opposing, but also complementary aspects of identity.

The film Orlando is hilarious at times, but always serious about its underlying theme, which -- again -- is sexual ambiguity.  If you check it out, try not to take anything very literally or historically -- it's a myth!  And a superb one, I must say! (What about those outrageous costumes and wigs!)

The Smell of Green Papaya, a Vietnamese film celebrated at the Cannes Film Festival, is an incredibly lovely, quietly revealing study of a servant girl's life in 1950's Saigon.  It won't put you to sleep, but may lower the blood pressure a bit as it spreads out its feast of precious visual and aural delights!

I greatly enjoyed watching Peter Fonda and Terrence Stamp in The LimeyI think of it as "Billy Budd strikes back!" -- because Terrence Stamp, who was that boyish, innocent character in the movie version of Melville's great story, plays the part here a very sturdy senior citizen, an ex-con who flies from England to L.A. to avenge his daughter's suspicious death while in the company of a high-sleaze rock producer (Peter Fonda).  Terrence Stamp is the essence of inexorability, nothing deters him from his objective, until, at the very end, he is transfixed by a moment of self-revelation and breaks free of his vengeful obsession.

Fearless, with Jeff Bridges, will certainly not make flying any easier, inasmuch as it depicts perhaps the most realistic vision ever of a plane crash and the traumatic effects experienced by survivors.  Jeff Bridges' character walks through the burning debris, assisting other as he goes, basically intact but robbed of fear by the unreality of the horror he has experienced.  We quickly see that fearlessness, while liberating and attractive in some ways, is fraught with mortal danger, as well.  It's like having no ability to feel pain.  It's slightly drawn out and overly dramatized, but the movie will certainly keep our attention and is, I think, a good close-up look at post-traumatic behaviour.

I want also to say a word or two about The Blair Witch Project, which suggested to me the scariest thing of all, clearing out my own broom closets -- because, finally, we are the "witch" haunting the dark, fearfully confused clutter of our own minds.  This movie, to me, evokes the kind of feeling a person might have in the process of really "losing it," sinking into a quicksand of completely negative & disorienting hallucinations, brought on by extreme exhaustion and frustration.  If you check it out, look for the psychological implications -- that's the scary part.  There is o final, climactic resolution, just a steady, head-long plunge into pure chaos.


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Fear not your final tryst on the dark river of Styx.  Just keep on a-hummin' that tune, "Lead kindly light amid the encircling gloom, lead thou me on."  Trust Love, the unknowable guiding Force behind all of this.  When people found it necessary to personalize this Power, they also humanized in their own image and indescribable Deity.  Love is the closest I can come to giving a name to what Paul Tillich called "the ground of all being," because love is the most transforming and enduring reality of our existence.  As the wonderful Pierre de Chardin, the French Jesuit futurist, once suggested, "When we learn to harness the energies of love, we will have discovered fire for the second time."  Ever since the atomic bomb, we have needed a moral equivalent to its mega-destructive actuality.  We urgently must actualize the energy of love in our personal relationships, not selfishly, but very specifically.  As with the origination of the A-Bomb, the very tiniest, almost unobservable particles of inter-connective physio/spiritual human connectiveness are vitally involved.

Religions have sought to provide definitive answers to matters that are beyond definition, which is why the come off so often as giant comedic motifs, even as demonic inspirations for unspeakable tragedy.  I differ with my beloved spiritual brother Jon Lennon somewhat when he suggests that we "imagine no religion," because, after all, we are deeply beholden to religion for many precious things, not the least of which is the supreme, ever-living explication of what life means -- the totally transforming reality of holy/human love in the presence of one man. So, Happy Easter, have a feast-a Love is Alive!

--Bill Joyner


Scott Russell Sanders

To become intimate with your home region, to know the territory as well as you can, to understand your life as woven into the local life does not prevent you from recognizing and honoring the diversity of other places, cultures, ways.  On the contrary, how can you value other places if you do not have one of your own?  If you are not yourself placed, then you wander the world like a sightseer, a collector of sensations, with no guage for measuring what you see.  Local knowledge is the grounding for global knowledge.  Those who care about nothing beyond the confines of their parish are in truth parochial, and are at least mildly dangerous to their parish; on the other hand, those who have no parish, those who navigate ceaselessly among postal zones and area codes, those for whom the world is only a smear of highways and bank accounts and stores, are a danger not just to their parish but to the planet.

--page 114



Aside from considerations of self-protection, I think guns just plain fascinate people.  Nothing much seems to happen on TV or in the movies until somebody pulls a gun out and starts shooting.  It's "the American way." Apparently.

As a teenager in the countryside of southeastern Virginia, I did my share of useless hunting and dangerous target shooting back along the edge of the deep woods.  In fact, I was a junior card-carrying member of the NRA.  Imagine that!  Of course, this was in the fifties, before the NRA was politicized into the right-wing coalition of gun nuts that it now is.  I do know something personally, in any case, about boyhood fascination with guns.

Following is a piece I wrote on this subject a few years ago.  I think it bears repeating, since it is an issue that increasingly concerns us all.

     As a boy in the country, I used to hung squirrels -- for no good reason.  It was a thing boys did back then,  to emulate the men.  Early one morning, around daybreak, I hiked deep into the woods with a .410 shotgun I'd been given, and pretty soon I spotted 2 of these little creatures skittering up and down a tall tree.  I aimed at one of them, and BOOM! -- down it fell, dead at my feet.  The other one slipped out of sight, morning playtime fatally interrupted.  That was the moment I gave up hunting -- forever!

     It should have happened earlier, before any of the boyhood shooting started.  It should have happened when I learned from the folks on a neighboring farm that a stray .22 rifle bullet from my target shooting had probably killed one of their ponies.

     We go on learning these things, time after time.  The gravity of it all was really brought home to me a few years ago when I almost became the victim of a stray bullet that shattered the back window of a car I was driving out on US 41 late one night, right here in sweet lil' ol' Sarasota.  They call such a victim a "mushroom." And I can tell you -- an experience like that can really make you believe in gun control!

(After-thought)  It seems that every time anybody says anything about registering or regulating guns at all, the gun lobby is going to scream that the government is disarming American citizens.  That is not the issue, just a NRA slogan of fear.  As we know, a car can also be a lethal weapon.  The difference is that every one of them is registered, whereas every gun is not.  And reasonable people want to know, why not?!  The absurdly easy access to armories of weapons, particularly at gun shows, is an atrocity we allow against our own safety.  As for owning one, count me out. I'd probably end up shooting myself in the foot.

--Bill Joyner (June 1, 2000)


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